The life and writings of a Tibetan meditation master who became the Buddhist priest to two Mongol emperors and is recognized as one of the earliest reincarnated lamas in Tibet.
Karma Pakshi is considered influential in the development of the reincarnate lama tradition, a system that led to the lineage of the Dalai Lamas. Born in East Tibet in the thirteenth century, Karma Pakshi himself was the first master to be named Karmapa, a lineage that continues to modern times and has millions of admirers worldwide. During his lifetime, Karma Pakshi was widely acknowledged as a mahāsiddha—a great spiritual adept—and was therefore invited to the Mongol court at the apogee of its influence in Asia. He gave spiritual advice and meditation instructions to the emperor Mӧngke Khan, whom he advised to engage in social policies, to release prisoners, and to adopt a vegetarian diet. After Mӧngke’s death, Karma Pakshi was imprisoned by the successive emperor Kubilai Khan, and much of Karma Pakshi’s writing was done while he was captive in northeast China. He was eventually released and returned to Tibet, where he commissioned one of the medieval world’s largest metal statues: a seated Buddha sixty feet high.
Centuries later, two Buddhist meditation masters, the First Mingyur Rinpoche and Chӧgyam Trungpa Rinpoche, were inspired by Karma Pakshi to write meditation practices that are profoundly important to contemporary Tibetan Buddhist practitioners: respectively, the Karma Pakshi Guru Yoga and the Sādhana of Mahāmudrā.
This first-ever comprehensive biography of Karma Pakshi in English reveals new information about a pivotal historical figure in the development of Tibetan Buddhism and his interactions with two Mongol emperors. Also included are translations of several newly available songs attributed to Karma Pakshi and translations of ten excerpts of his writings on reincarnation, meditation, dreams, visionary experiences, tantra, and consecration. Details on the music of Karma Pakshi's singing of the maṇi mantra are also given.
About the Author
CHARLES MANSON was once a master woodcarver, who then spent several years as a Buddhist monk and meditation retreatant. He later studied at Harvard University where he received a Master of Theological Studies degree. He currently works as a librarian for the Tibetan Collections at the Bodleian Library (Oxford University) and at the British Library in London.
“Karma Pakshi, tantric adept and wonderworker, visionary and emissary to the Mongol Khans, has fascinated and inspired generations of Tibetan Buddhists down to the present day. He remains, however, an enigmatic figure, whose writings and history remain poorly known. Charles E. Manson deserves our gratitude for introducing us to the life and work of an important and unusual master in this attractive, accessible volume.”—Matthew T. Kapstein, author of The Tibetans and Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies, University of Chicago
“Karma Pakshi is a towering figure in Tibetan Buddhism. The first widely recognized reincarnate lama, or tulku, who established the Karmapa lineage, he was a poet, a scholar, and an accomplished meditator. Karma Pakshi’s fascinating story, including his time in the Mongol empire established by Genghis (Chinggis) Khan, is told here with clarity, thoughtfulness, and generosity. Selections from his poetry, visions, and teachings are beautifully translated. This is truly essential reading for those interested in Tibetan Buddhist practice and history.”—Sam van Schaik, author of Buddhist Magic
“Full of incredible accounts and textual references. . . . Highly recommended.”—International Institute for Asian Studies
“A rare spiritual biography blending academic research skillfully with a free-flowing narrative. . . . A truly remarkable achievement and a must-read.”—The Mirror
“Manson deploys intricate history and masterful storytelling to present a vivid picture of Karma Pakshi that is at once detailed and accessible.”—Buddhistdoor Global
“Manson's book dedicated to Karma Pakshi is the most detailed available to date. It is informed by a wealth of difficult textual sources and years of working with them. The author’s writing style is clear and readable, his translations of the texts comprehensible and faithful to the original meaning at the same time. I would like to congratulate the author for this achievement and highly recommend it to interested readers. It is a book of a very high standard and a great contribution to our knowledge of Karma Pakshi's life and legacy.”—H-Net Reviews